Just days after announcing that he was taking a leave of absence from his post to receive treatment for an aggressive form of cancer, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson died on Sunday, October 9 at the age of 50.
“With a heavy heart, the family of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that the district attorney passed away today after a hard fought battle with cancer,” his family released in a statement on Sunday.
Thompson — a graduate of the New York City public schools system who was elected in 2014 as the first African-American to serve the borough as district attorney — updated the public on his health via a written statement – which did not specify exactly what type of cancer he had contracted – earlier this month.
Brooklyn and New York City public officials saddened by the news were quick to send condolences to the Thompson family.
“The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with District Attorney Ken Thompson, his family and his loved ones tonight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray released in a joint statement. “With a life and promise cut far too short, our city was blessed with but a glimpse of Ken’s unwavering commitment to justice and his unrivaled pursuit of a more fair system for all those he served.”
“It is with deep regret and tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of DA Ken Thompson,” said Brooklyn Chief Assistant District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “He was a giant among those seeking to reform the criminal justice system and we are all privileged to have worked under his transformative leadership these past three years.”
Having campaigned on the promise of restoring confidence in the criminal justice system, Thompson established a model Conviction Review Unit which, in three years, moved to vacate or support the dismissal of the convictions of 21 people who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other offenses, according to the Thompson family.
Before becoming DA in 2013, Thompson served as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, a special assistant to the U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Enforcement in Washington, D.C., and in the General Counsel’s Office at the Treasury.
“Brooklyn has lost a true champion of justice. Our borough stands united in mourning the terribly untimely passing of Ken Thompson, a man who set a gold standard for public service that has had an lasting impact across our country,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “From enacting marijuana prosecution reform to addressing the open warrant crisis for low-level offenses, he has introduced much-needed fairness and compassion into our criminal justice system. Furthermore, Ken’s commitment to the law and to the well-being of our children and families made our streets fundamentally safer.”
“I am profoundly saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson after a battle with cancer. Ken was a dedicated public servant who embodied the highest principles of the law, and his grand presence will be sorely missed,” added Governor Andrew Cuomo. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Thompson family, friends and neighbors, and the entire Brooklyn community at this difficult time. As a tribute to Ken’s enduring legacy, I am directing all flags to half staff on Monday, October 10, 2016.”
Victoria Schneps-Yunis, co-publisher of this paper and owner of Schneps Communications, said the organization will be dedicating an award in Thompson’s honor at the upcoming Kings of Kings event, an awards and networking dinner held to honor dedicated community members, on November 17.
“We are so inspired by his life that, in light of his incredible achievements of a lifetime, we will be creating the Ken Thompson Memorial Community Service Award that will be presented at our upcoming Kings of Kings event on November 17,” said Schneps-Yunis. “Our prayers and love go out to his loving wife Lu-Shawn Thompson and their two beautiful children, Kennedy and Kenny. May they find comfort in knowing that his legacy will go on forever.”